Battle Royal: Super Record vs. Dura-Ace vs. Red

When I’m out on the bike I get a lot of questions. Mostly they revolve around whatever the newest thing I’m riding, be it bike, clothing or what-have-you. What’s interesting is that the broader, more philosophical questions about equipment come late in a ride. They always have.


After we’ve punched some tickets, gone cross-eyed and been humbled, the late portion of the ride, as we cool down and head for home is when all the most interesting questions come up. They’ve ranged from what my favorite saddle (I’m really partial to the Fi’zi:k Antares) is to whether I’d ride steel on a course with a lot of climbing (um, no).


It was shortly after the Schleck chaingate that a newer rider asked me what group he should buy now that Andy Schleck had demonstrated that the Red drivetrain was defective and in need of an overhaul.


“Easy,” I said. “You should buy the one that never suffers a missed shift.”

Then I gave a hearty laugh.

I hope you’ll pardon me for laughing at my own joke. I laughed long and loud over that. The rider in question didn’t follow me. I left him to ponder what I might have meant.


That belies a common question I get, though: Who makes the best component group?


I’ve got a few thousand miles each on Super Record, Dura-Ace and Red. I can speak to that question. Normally, I don’t like or do shootouts for a simple reason: Someone always loses. That said, there are specific reasons to recommend one group over another depending on your individual needs. For some riders, there may not be a compelling reason to go with one over the others, but for others, there may be a very clear choice.

Needs aside, I believe that each manufacturer is in for some constructive criticism. Each of those groups feature some blemishes that can and should be addressed.

And so, now that RKP’s traffic is big enough that we can’t be ignored, I’m about to embark on a series of posts that could well piss off some really nice people at companies that I previously hoped would advertise. Gulp.

Oh, a brief (but obvious) word on what defines a group. It used to be that a group included shift levers, brake levers, brakes, derailleurs, a bottom bracket, crank set, chain, cables, headset, hubs and pedals. These days integrated headsets are found in most frames, nearly all wheels are sold as complete wheelsets and pedals stopped being sold with groups not long after Look entered the market; a group no longer includes a headset, hubs or pedals.

Like I said, this is going to take a few posts to get through. Keep checking back.

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  1. JonathanH

    It’d be cool to include Shimano’s Di2 or Ui2 groups in this shoot-out. Like everything else, they’re not flawless but offer very different shifting experiences to a mechanical setup.

    1. Author

      JonathanH: I left Di2 out of the mix for a couple of reasons, but the biggest should have been obvious: I’m comparing apples to apples, that is, mechanical to mechanical. There’s no way to objectively compare Red to Di2 or EPS. Put another way, it’s not a fair fight. Not that I think electronic is necessarily better, but there’s no standard for comparison.

  2. Wayne

    It appears to me that most people pick a group the way they pick an internet browser. They just love the clearly superior brand that came with the machine. Ditto for crank “standards”. I don’t agree with that approach but that is the way the world works.

    Boy I wish Campy would get into the OEM market.


  3. Clark

    Given that as roadies, we appreciate both form and function, I think it’s worth noting that the “right” gruppo can in some cases depend on the frame it’s going to accompany. For example, I think Campagnolo looks out of place on American bikes (including Cervelo), but an Italian bike shouldn’t be dressed in anything else.

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  5. Dingbat

    The story of “what makes a group”–or has made a group, over the past 50 years (and let’s not forget about the invention of the idea of a “group” itself)– may well be the more interesting story (=the one that isn’t already hashed to death in reviews, magazines, fora, etc.)!

  6. Scott G.

    The winners are,
    Shifters, Pre-2009 Campy, last repairable shifter.
    Chain, SRAM
    Cassette, Shimano
    Front derailer, Campagnolo
    Rear derailer, Shimano
    Hub, Shimano, lower dish wins
    Crankset, TA Zephyr
    Bottom bracket, Shimano UN-72
    Jtek to make it all play nice.

  7. noel

    Patrick, we have to remain friends after I finish reading this. Don’t make me pull out photos of your corroded aluminum Durace bits and share them with the people.


  8. jorgensen

    I suggest if you have not already done the effort, to compare wear after some given equal use point. That and serviceability. A fresh ensemble will work well, a bit harder 1,500 or 3,000 miles on.

  9. MCH

    Ford, Chevy, Mopar..oh my! This is gonna be fun.

    BTW, corroded DA stuff drives me crazy too. Not enough to switch, though 😉

  10. noel

    there’s an old saying.. that something doesn’t exist if it can’t be measured. when i run into those kinds of folks i tend to run for my life. there isn’t a finish line for gruppos. they’re just what they are… the finding one better is really about the guy playing around on the bike or using the tool. you like some things, i like some things, they like some things. and then…the bike is the bike.
    i dunno… choice wins.

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